The violence in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region intensified over the weekend, with more extensive vandalism and arson and the discovery of another homemade bomb. The worsening situation may call for more stringent measures to restore law and order in the SAR.
What started on Sunday, before all hell broke loose, was a so-called peaceful but illegal demonstration in Kowloon. Given what had happened following past rallies, the gathering had rightly been denied approval by the police. And confirming their fears, no sooner had the main body of demonstrators left than radical demonstrators started blocking roads and setting fire in multiple places along Nathan Road, the main traffic artery in Kowloon. Black smoke filled the air in many parts of the peninsula. The targets of the vandals-arsonists, other than police stations, government departments and public facilities such as MTR stations and traffic lights, were expanded to include almost all mainland-related businesses - banks, restaurants, bookstores and telecom equipment stores - and local ones that have spoken out against them.
Amidst the chaos, one thing was very clear - the rioters cared nothing about public safety. That, on the other hand, is the SAR government's top concern. As the police had warned, fires set in ground-floor shops spread upward, endangering the lives of residents living on the upper floors. Furthermore, subsequent to the previous discovery of a roadside improvised explosive device, another one was found on Sunday. The use of IEDs as well as extensive and indiscriminate arson show this illegal campaign is adopting terror tactics.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor stated when announcing the anti-mask law that more measures would be introduced if the situation continued to worsen. Now with violence intensifying and the local and foreign forces behind the turmoil showing no signs of letting things calm down, more stringent measures are obviously called for. One possible way to cripple the illegal activities may be to impose stricter controls on social media. We all know the radical protesters are using social media to communicate and organize their activities. Depriving them of these means of effective communication is an option to consider.
Fire rages at an exit of the Hong Kong subway's Central Station after radical protesters went on an arson spree on Sept 8, 2019. (Photo:China Daily)
At the same time, Western politicians and media should act responsibly and stop supporting the illegal and violent activities. Their interference in Hong Kong's affairs is a denial of the democracy and human rights that they so smugly claim to be upholding.
But ultimately the most effective way to end the violence is for Hong Kong residents to continue to stand firmly behind the SAR government and the police, so that the masterminds behind the scene will come to understand what they have stirred up in the SAR will get them nowhere and instead end up hurting their own interests.